Hillsdale Free Methodist Church recently installed an Emer­gency Action Plan. Brooke Conrad | Col­legian

Local churches are taking pre­cau­tionary mea­sures to keep their parish­ioners safe.

After recent shootings in public places, including places of worship, some local Hillsdale churches are revis­iting their emer­gency policies, while others are cre­ating new policies to ensure people are safe in their church com­mu­nities. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Free Methodist Church, and Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene all have emer­gency pro­tocols and hand­books in place to help parish­ioners handle natural dis­asters, medical emer­gencies, and active shooter sit­u­a­tions.

Peter Becker is the con­gre­ga­tional pres­ident at St. Paul’s, and, for the past 10 years, he has also been the chair of the com­mittee that pre­pares parish­ioners for emer­gencies.

“We always have faith that God will protect us,” Becker said. “But God also uses people as instru­ments.”

The com­mittee cur­rently con­sists of 10 to 12 parish­ioners who have been trained in the committee’s prepa­ra­tions as well as in first aid, CPR, and the oper­ation of auto­mated external defib­ril­lators. Becker said members are typ­i­cally trained one-on-one as they decide to join the com­mittee.

The trained members of the com­mittee are placed on a rotating schedule to ensure that a few members are present in the church’s narthex during every service.

“We make sure that if there are any emer­gencies we can help take care of the people attending the service,” Becker said.

He said the church hasn’t had any cases recently, but, in the past, the com­mittee has dealt with slips and falls. The emer­gency com­mittee has also per­formed drills during ser­vices to help parish­ioners prepare for weather emer­gencies.  

In July, Corianne Herring created an emer­gency action plan for Hillsdale Free Methodist, where she attends. Free Methodist didn’t pre­vi­ously have an emer­gency plan laid out, and she wanted to change that. Herring said her mil­itary back­ground trained her to have a plan for every­thing. She said safety and security is always on her mind.

“My church is like my family,” Herring said. “I wanted to make sure we had a plan to keep them safe.”

About two months ago, Herring’s emer­gency plan was dis­tributed to members of the com­munity, and Herring said it was received well. The emer­gency plan includes prepa­ra­tions for an active shooter, medical emer­gencies, and severe weather events. Herring hopes to make a security team sometime in the future.

“Sadly the world is not what is used to be,” Herring said. “It’s important that we do every­thing we can to prepare.”

According to the Free Methodist Emer­gency Action Plan resource guide, “We seek to provide a safe and secure worship envi­ronment for our church members and guests. Our goal is to create an alert and aware envi­ronment that may be able to prevent an emer­gency from occurring.”

Rev. Mike Prince of the Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene is working with local author­ities, rep­re­sen­ta­tives, non­profit orga­ni­za­tions, and con­gre­ga­tions of faith to plan a seminar designed to address the issue of safety in churches. The seminar is still in the planning phases, but is expected to take place in Feb­ruary or March of 2019, and its goal is to make sure that all places of worship are on the same page when it comes to safety in their com­mu­nities.

Prince said that with recent gun vio­lence in schools and churches, people need to come together and answer the tough ques­tions to make sure that people are safe.

“The church has his­tor­i­cally been a safe place to worship,” Prince said. “But we have to make sure we con­tinue to make it a safe place.”

The Church of the Nazarene on a national level is cur­rently working on a pre­paredness plan that allows all its local parishes to be on the same page. The working draft of the pre­paredness response plan says that no indi­vidual, home, church, or region is immune to natural or human-caused dis­asters. It also says that response should be a con­tinuous process, and “every­thing in effective dis­aster response depends upon planning and prepa­ration at the local church and min­istry level.”

Prince said the Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene hopes to implement the instruc­tions from the national level of the Church of the Nazarene and work together with other churches in Hillsdale to ensure the church com­munity is kept safe in its place of worship.

“The feeling of the church is that we’d rather be pre­pared than have to deal with the aftermath,” Becker said.